World News

Unpopular Swiss defense minister resigns

Swiss Defence and Sport Minister Samuel Schmid announces his resignation during a news conference after the weekly meeting of the Federal Council in Bern November 12, 2008. FREUTERS/Pascal Lauener

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland Defense Minister Samuel Schmid, long under pressure after a series of military scandals, resigned on Wednesday, citing health and family reasons after undergoing a gallstone operation.

Schmid had been weakened by the resignations of the chief of staff, over a sex scandal, and the head of the air force, over a rafting accident in which five service people died.

His exit frees up a place on Switzerland’s seven-member governing Federal Council. The right-wing SVP party -- currently unrepresented there, although it is the largest group in parliament -- said it would contest the election for the post, paving the way for a possible return for populist Christoph Blocher, a former justice minister.

Reporting by Sam Cage, editing by Mark Trevelyan